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Butterflies, Sci-Fi, and John Keats

Cupid and Psyche First Kiss

On this episode we take a detour from the four Hawthorne Sci-Fi stories to explore a critical symbol in literature and science fiction: the Butterfly. That's right, the butterfly. I'll be telling you the myth of Cupid and Psyche and reading the poem "Ode to Psyche" By John Keats. By the end of this episode you will have a better understanding of how symbols can be used by a master storyteller to add to a story, the similarities between symbols, allegories, metaphor, simile and analogy, and where specific symbols originated. This may sound like a boring discussion about an academic subject. I hope, however, that I have taken examples from literature and poetry and shown you how these can improve you life, enrich your readings, and shape your consciousness. For, no art more than literature can do all of these, and in so short a span as a few power lines of prose.

Here are a few of the paintings I discuss in the podcast:

In the story Psyche is brought to a hill to be married to the monster. Notice how her marriage procession looks like a funeral procession.

In the story Psyche is brought to a hill to be married to the monster. Notice how her marriage procession looks like a funeral procession.

Here is the marriage between Psyche and Cupid. Notice the butterfly wings.

Here is Psyche's marriage to Eros (cupid). Notice the figures with butterfly wings above the couples heads.

Here is Psyche spying on Cupid. In this scenario we start to see Cupid represented as a small boy. In ancient Greece, Cupid was generally described as a beautiful young man. Again, notice Psyche's wings.

Here we have Cupid (as a man) and Psyche with her wings.

Ode to Psyche


O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung

By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,

And pardon that thy secrets should be sung

Even into thine own soft-conched ear:

Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see

The winged Psyche with awaken'd eyes?

I wander'd in a forest thoughtlessly,

And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,

Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side

In deepest grass, beneath the whisp'ring roof

Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran

A brooklet, scarce espied:

Mid hush'd, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,

Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,

They lay calm-breathing, on the bedded grass;

Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;

Their lips touch'd not, but had not bade adieu,

As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,

And ready still past kisses to outnumber

At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:

The winged boy I knew;

But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?

His Psyche true!

O latest born and loveliest vision far

Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!

Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-region'd star,

Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;

Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,

Nor altar heap'd with flowers;

Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan

Upon the midnight hours;

No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet

From chain-swung censer teeming;

No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat

Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.

O brightest! though too late for antique vows,

Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,

When holy were the haunted forest boughs,

Holy the air, the water, and the fire;

Yet even in these days so far retir'd

From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,

Fluttering among the faint Olympians,

I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspir'd.

So let me be thy choir, and make a moan

Upon the midnight hours;

Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet

From swinged censer teeming;

Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat

Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane

In some untrodden region of my mind,

Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,

Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:

Far, far around shall those dark-cluster'd trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;

And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,

The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull'd to sleep;

And in the midst of this wide quietness

A rosy sanctuary will I dress

With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain,

With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,

With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,

Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:

And there shall be for thee all soft delight

That shadowy thought can win,

A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,

To let the warm Love in!